Welcome to Western Mining History

Total Devastation: The Butte, Montana Explosion of 1895

Volunteers help sort through the devastation of the 1895 explosion in Butte, Montana

In January of 1895, a warehouse fire ignited a large store of dynamite resulting in a great explosion that devastated several blocks of Butte, Montana, and killed an estimated 58 people. The following account is partial text from the 1895 publication “The Great Dynamite Explosions at Butte, Montana: January 15, 1895” The Fire and Explosions  Continue Reading

A Look at California in 1851, Two Years Into the Gold Rush

El Dorado County, California in 1851

For anyone familiar with California in modern times, it is difficult to imagine what the state must have been like during the California Gold Rush. The famous gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill happened in 1848, but it wasn’t until 1849 that news of the discovery reached the East Coast and the rest of the world.  Continue Reading

A Pioneer Road Trip Through Southwest Colorado in 1878

Bakers Park and Howardsville, Colorado 1870s

The following article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette, September 14, 1878 Gipsying in Colorado 1878 It is often asked, which do you admire most, Silverton or Ouray? It is impossible to make comparisons between places so utterly different. Ouray, as I have described, is in the wildest imaginable spot; just room enough, as it  Continue Reading

Aftermath of the Gunfight at the OK Corral

The graves Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury in Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona

The Gunfight at the OK Corral is certainly the most famous shootout of the Old West. This event has been the subject of numerous books and movies, some of them becoming Western classics like the movie “Tombstone”. However, most movies about the gunfight fail to capture the true scope of this event, both in the  Continue Reading

Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge

Sumpter Gold Dredge No. 3

Sumpter, Oregon was settled by prospectors in 1862, making it one of the earliest mining settlements in the Northwest. Sumpter was a remote and isolated town which grew very slowly, and it wasn’t until the 1890s, with improvements in transportation routes and the arrival of a railroad, that Sumpter turned into a mining boom town.  Continue Reading

“Clark’s Folly” – How a Mining Tycoon Spends His Fortune

Clark Mansion New York 1906

William Andrews Clark Sr. (January 8, 1839 – March 2, 1925) was an American politician and entrepreneur, involved with mining, banking, and railroads. Clark made his first fortune as one of the three “Copper Kings” of Butte, Montana. He was later involved in many ventures including the development of mines and smelters in Jerome, Arizona,  Continue Reading

Extreme Isolation in 1870s Ophir, Nevada

Ophir Nevada - The End of the World in 1870

Highway 50 across central Nevada is known as “The Loneliest Road in America”, and for good reason. The route crosses vast stretches of empty desert with nothing but a few old mining camps to fill the void. Anyone that has been to Austin, Nevada must have left with the impression that they just visited America’s  Continue Reading